Although several federal agencies conduct physical science and engineering programs and studies, the CMGP occupies a unique niche by providing capabilities to conduct research and assessments of the geologic processes impacting the nation's coasts. The efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are focused on developing engineering solutions to very site-specific coastal problems (e.g., tidal inlet improvement and beach nourishment projects). NOAA's needs for geologic information to address its mission requirements for management of fisheries, sanctuaries, and other coastal resources are not met in NOAA, although the Sea Grant Program does support small geologic research studies conducted by state institutions. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rely heavily on the academic community to provide whatever geologic research and knowledge base the agencies require. However, the USGS alone has the ability to frame coastal geologic questions having both regional and national perspectives, while conducting studies that provide the geologic component for interdisciplinary approaches and useful information to decisionmakers. Examples of such efforts include erosion of the southwest Washington coast; Florida Bay information on injection well flushing (Box 2-4); the threat posed by contaminated sediment along the coast of southern California (Box 4-1); and seafloor characterization for essential fish habitat, including coral reef processes.
The special expertise of the CMGP in understanding the geology of the coastal oceans lends itself to collaboration with other federal agencies, and some local efforts relating to ecosystems assessments and geologic framework for pollution studies with NOAA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency are being conducted now (e.g., Stellwagen Bank/ Boston Outfall, New York Bight dump sites, and Lake Pontchartrain). There is a need for expanded efforts by the USGS to quantitatively describe and model the geologic framework of coastal and marine regions for more effective management of environmental protection and resources. Such collaboration with other federal agencies provides an opportunity for the USGS to leverage its program funds and to amplify the scientific return of investigations carried out by other agencies. The CMGP should develop a more aggressive approach to collaboration with federal agencies that need information about the geologic framework to meet their mission, including efforts to educate these agencies about the relevance of the information.